(from November Newsletter)
I’ve often been asked, why Vegas. There was no secret formula, and we certainly did not close our eyes and pick a spot on the map. It started in Oxford, around 3 years ago, as I was interviewing with a local church for their pastor position. During that time, Lauren and I began to understand that God’s plans for us were leading away from the Southeastern United States (a.k.a. the bible belt). Church planting was definitely not on my mind as near as 4 years ago. That was the case until I met a man named Roger. Many of you will probably never meet Roger, but he is a man of passion and a man bound and determined to see more churches begin in the darkest corners of the U.S. He got my wheels spinning. I had never seen myself as a church planter, nor did I want anything to do with the world that had come to be known as church planting.
In the meantime, we began sending out resumes to churches throughout the country, via the Southern Baptist Convention website and its job listings. I started interviewing with a church in northern Nevada. Pastoring that church did not work out, but as we researched that area, I (not Lauren sat first) began to fall in love with Nevada, and began to see what God was doing there. Many times, we paint Nevada in a very dark light, and there is much darkness there, but there is a remnant of the church there, fighting back the darkness. God’s spirit is raising up His church there, and its wonderful to watch. I just prayed Lauren would feel the same way.
In September of 2016, Lauren and I took a trip to North Nevada that would change the course of our future. We went to see a little town called Wendover, to pursue a vision to plant a church there, but ended up on a journey that would point first towards Salt Lake City, then ultimately Sin City, Las Vegas. For many, this is barren ground, only remembered for lust and greed, but for us, the love of this city has grown over the last year. The more we see,the more we are drawn to her. We want to see God work, God move, God raise the dry bones to life.
So i ask again, why Vegas? Well, a lot of reasons; varying from spiritual things to lifestyle things. It has a high level of need for more churches. There is solid support there among other churches and new friends (not going in alone). Our family doesn’t like cold weather but enjoys sunshine and warmth year round. Our pastors and friends immediately became excited about it. We didn’t have to sell them on any of this.
My wife has affirmed the decision whole -heartedly, even before I did. We love the relaxed atmosphere of suburban Las Vegas. We love the desert and the mountains. I despise cutting grass and hate rain. Guess what, both are rare in Las Vegas. Also, God has given us a deep well of burden for the people of Las Vegas; we love this city! Lastly, we have peace about it.
I feel like I need to qualify that last statement or at least explain it. Several years ago, after studying cults, I began to flee from that imagery. It also occurred to me that it’s one of the most miss-used phrases among evangelicals. An extreme example is I prayed about it and I’m leaving my spouse because God has given me a peace and He wants me to be happy. No that contradicts Gods word and you have mistaken peace for comfort and pleasure. Saying that, I began on a mission to understand what the word calling means. What is a calling? If we strip away peace, is there any tangible evidence left of a calling? Let me say that another way. How do you know God wants you to do something? Take away any feelings of peace. What do you have left? Hopefully a lot. My suspicion is that many have nothing.
Here’s the kicker: let me tell you, we have peace about this. Not based on greed, pleasure, or comfort, but on reassurance, confirmation, and complete provision. I could not tell a person, I am 100% sure God has spoken here. I’ve never heard the physical voice of God. But some where along the way it happened, buried amongst the funding checks, the daydreams of lone mountain, the assurance of planter qualifying check lists in church planting literature, and the passion for this great city.
It hasn’t been all fairy tale though, the last year of preparation has brought “ups and downs”. I have continued to work a full time (time and a half mostly) job, as has Lauren. All the while, raising two kids, working on staff with Grace Bible Church (bi-vocationally), and preparing for church planting. I’ve spent late nights researching neighborhoods, creating blog post and videos, and on my knees crying out to God for more faith to see all this through.
We have moved once within Oxford, and are now preparing to move again (in Oxford/Abbeville) before our final move to Las Vegas. Watching our kids get sick over and again, all the while just wanting to make a large payment on debt so it can be gone. As it were, I really don’t think we would be ready though, if the last two years hadn’t gone like they have. God has worked tirelessly on my heart year after year. For the last two years, he has been working to prepare us to go.
I have had people ask what we have been doing the last two years. That is what it has looked like for us. A lot of sleepy-eyed days and nights, raising children, making disciples, serving a church, fixing air conditioners, teaching children not our own, and dreaming of the day when we can do the same thing in Las Vegas, Nevada.